World Cup Quote Sheet - June 10, 2014: Training Day 2

U.S. Men's National Team Players Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Fabian Johnson speak about training and focusing on the first match against Ghana.

On how he and his game have evolved since the last World Cup in South Africa:
“I think as you get older, you mature. You start to understand the game at an even higher level. When you have the experience of having been in certain situations and played in different types of games, the hope is always that as you get older, the better you get. I’m somebody who loves to train, I love to play, I love to compete, so I enjoy everyday going out and trying to challenge myself to improve, to make myself better, to take the things that I’m good at and make them count for that much more. I feel like I’m a more complete player, I feel like I’m a better player, but still, at the end of the day it’s up to me to make sure that I’m able to take that and make sure it shows in the game.”

On utilizing his experience from playing Ghana in 2010 in the upcoming match:
“I remember quite a bit. It was a game where obviously, we found ourselves down early, but the response was good and for the majority of that game we were the ones in control and pushing things and looking to get back to 1-1 and then once we get back to 1-1, we were still pushing for a win.

“Ghana’s a team that can cause you trouble, especially in the attacking half. In the attacking part of the field they have guys who have a mix of athleticism, technical ability, and the way they can take certain plays and almost improvise and turn that half play into all of a sudden, a chance. So, we have to understand what they are all about. I do think it’s a different team than the one that we played in 2010, and obviously a different coach. In 2010, they played more a 4-1-4-1. We’re pretty organized, so I think all of those little details are to still to be seen; how now they’re going approach the first game against us.”

On the Ghana win over South Korea:
“We saw the second half. We got back to the hotel, had dinner and then had a meeting so no one was really seeing anything from the first half apart from the goals. In general, I think it’s hard to take much from any of these warm-up games. The teams are trying different things, different guys get put on the field in different spots and its always important to remember that players get put in difficult spots in these games because now you want to be sharp, you want to play well, you’re trying to make sure that as the tournament gets closer that there’s confidence and there’s momentum. At the same time, they’re still warm-up games, so I think last night was a good example of that. It would be easy to look at the end and say ‘4-0, what a performance,’ but still, you know it’s a warm-up game and regardless of how the game went last night, we have a lot of respect for Ghana. They are a good team. We know that they are dangerous, that they can cause trouble. At the end of it, I am not sure how much you can really take from last night or any of these games.”

On the importance of the first game:
“I think when you talk about a big tournament like this, everybody goes into the first game with the idea that you want points. I read an interview with Pique yesterday where he said for a team like Spain it’s no different, they’re playing Holland and their idea is that they want the result, they need points. Everybody starts at zero, so the first game is so important. Statistically the chances of advancing go way up now if you’re able to get a point or three from the first game. We’ve certainly made no secret of the fact that all the focus at this point is about Ghana and making sure that we do everything we can so that on June 16 we step on the field and are ready to leave it all out there knowing that a good result puts us in a really good spot.

“It’s important then at the end of 90 minutes regardless of how the game goes that there’s enough presence, enough leadership, to make sure that we’re getting ready for the second game. Good result or bad result there’s still two games left, there’s still 180 minutes left to turn things around. You can never predict beforehand how things go. Obviously, we’re sitting here now and talking about wanting to start well, but just because we talk about it doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed, so we have to have a strong enough mentality and enough commitment that says no matter how it goes, no matter what happens in the first few minutes of the first game, it doesn’t matter, we’re just ready to keep going and going and going and knowing that at the end of three games, more often than not, the best teams will be there."

On recent injuries effecting the World Cup:
"In a lot of cases it’s bad luck. There are certain things as players you do to try to prevent injuries, to try to stay fit, but at the end of the day, you step on the field, you play, you leave everything out on the field and unfortunately things happen at times. No player ever wants to see anybody else get hurt and have to miss a big game, a big tournament.

"For me personally, I played with two guys who now will miss this tournament. Kevin Strootman hurts his knee in the second half of the season at Roma and will miss the World Cup and Marco Reus rolls his ankle the other day and won’t be here. Those are two guys, two friends who I hate to see them having to miss an opportunity like this. Part of sports is obviously dealing with injuries and knowing that there’s moments when things happen and there’s nothing you can do. I still think I speak for any of us to say that you hate to see it.”

On the importance of getting a result from the group stage:
“In some ways, it’s almost magnified for us because we don’t play in European championships. We don’t have a “Copa” America. Obviously, our Gold Cups are important, but we also have to be honest and say that they aren’t on the same scale as those tournaments. And so, for us, the big chance comes once every four years. The work at the end of the day gets put to the test at the World Cup. And, on one level, you can say that it’s such a small sample size because obviously there’s so much that goes on for four years, in terms of work and training and games that you hope pays off.

“But, at the end of the day, you also realize that you get to this moment and you get to these kinds of games and the margin between winning and losing is so small. All you have to do is look back, even at previous World Cups, for the U.S. In 2002, the first thing that everybody does is looks and says, “the quarterfinals, what a tournament,” and it was. But when you start to look closely, you realize that in that third game, had it not been for Mark in South Korea, we wouldn’t have gone through. On the other hand, you look at 2006 and everybody looks and says, 'Ah, a total nightmare.' But, after five or ten minutes against Czech Republic, I think Claudio hit the post when it was 0-0 and how different things could’ve been.

“As players, we all understand that. You relish the opportunity to play at the highest level and to have a chance where now all eyes are on you and the spotlight comes on. It comes with the territory that now, regardless of anything else that’s happened over four years, this is the ultimate test and we are excited about that.”

On the impact traveling has on players:
“That’s something that’s being talked about in a negative way with other teams. Guys playing in MLS constantly travel across the country. Even the guys in Europe, having to come back for qualifiers and friendlies, that’s also tough for them. Jurgen said it best, it’s going to be a World Cup of patience and of knowing how to handle the element of being able to suffer at times. But when you talk about playing and the need to travel it doesn’t bother me. Not only does it not bother us, it excites us. It’s something the other teams are still working on, and something they’re not as comfortable with.”

U.S. MNT defender MATT BESLER:
On his and the team’s feelings going into the tournament after four years of preparation:
“I think we’ve put a lot of work into everything the last year, the last two years especially with the preparation camp the last three weeks. So, as a group, everyone is definitely ready to be down here, and ready to play our first match against Ghana.”

On how Jurgen wants the team to play:
“We want to be on the front foot. We’re not going to sit back for 90 minutes trying to get something off of a set piece or maybe off of one counter attack. We want to be a team that possesses the ball and that’s able to create multiple chances throughout the game. Like you said in the question, at this level when it gets to the teams that we’re going to face, we have to be extremely smart about how we’re going to go about that and we have to stay compact, we have to get our shape, and we have to make it tough for teams to break us down. If we can get the right balance, we’re going to be most effective. That’s what we’re trying to do as we approach the games.”

On if there was a turning point in his career:
“For me, there’s never been one moment where I’ve just felt that turning point. It’s been more of a process; there are certain things that you’ll always remember like a first cap, or a first qualifier, a MLS Cup. There are certain games that you’ll definitely remember, but there’s never one thing that’s really a turning point. It’s just been about the attitude during the whole process of always wanting more, having that desire to always want to achieve the next thing. When you get your first cap, it’s great and it’s a big moment, but after the game, it’s what’s next. You make the World Cup team and it’s a great moment in your career, but then it’s what’s next. It’s the Ghana match, after the next one. It’s about having that attitude of wanting to achieve the next thing in your career.”

On first impressions of Sao Paulo and the training facility:
“I think the facilities here are great. I play at Hoffenheim, and the facilities there were almost the same. Good fields. In Sao Paulo, I think we haven’t seen much. It’s pretty crowded, a lot of traffic.”

On the new technology for the World Cup:
“I think it makes it easier for the referees to make decisions. They have a hard job, and I think it makes the game a lot easier for them.”

On his move to Mönchengladbach:
“Yeah I talked to [Bradley] a few times. I think Mönchengladbach is a great team in Germany with a lot of tradition and good fans.  We played a good season. We wanted to take a step forward to go and play Europa League. With Mönchengladbach that’s a step we wanted to take.”

On integrating “One Nation, One Team” slogan on the field:
“I think all of our games, the travel and just the supporters... It’s just what we try to put on the field.”

On preparing for the Ghana match:
“I think we try to get ready before matches. One week before we try to watch the games, try to analyze them just so we can do our best. I think it’s hard, because you know they’re going to play the same way against us as they play in the warm-up game.  I think the coach is going to give us the right game plan against Ghana.”

On the preparation for the Nigeria match:
“I think Nigeria is quite the same as Ghana, we tried to work on our defense. We’ll try to do the same thing here.”